Electric Frankenstein

The monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein spoke French, ate nuts 'n' berries and became the Victorian era's most romantic fugitive-on-a-dogsled. New Jersey's walking dead should be so lucky.

Brothers Sal and Dan Canzonieri recently discovered some old demos under their bunkbeds that they wanted the world to hear: seventeen "rarities" from 1986 to 1993 that include tracks from the pre-Electric Frankenstein outfits The Thing (Hawkwind-influenced stoner glaze), Crash Street Kids (punk glam) and Kathedral (ball-and-chain goth hokum). Brought up to production code, though, these "long-lost" bleeding slabs of sound are a mixed bag of limbs, Igor; imagine yet another lurching, clumsy creature stitched together from the robbed graves of '60s garage, '70s glitter, '80s hardcore and '90s grunge. Lead singer Steve Miller must hear that "Fly Like an Eagle" stuff all the time, but he sounds more like the bald guy from Nashville Pussy with a epiglottis infection. Ever heard of cough syrup with an expectorant?

Electric Frankenstein might distinguish itself from Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet, the Street Walking Cheetahs and the other shining leaders of the stoner "movement" (now, there's a cause!) by whistling past the graveyard once in a while to relieve the monotony of all that predictable doom and gloom. Forget it. Burning windmill power chords and dungeon bass always make for rawkin' bedfellows, as either "Ruin You" or "Subway Suicide Boy" can testify. While the semi-feral "Mistress" apes the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday in Cambodia" with surgical precision, "Desperado" (originally recorded for this tiny imprint's Alice Cooper tribute and later aborted) es muy Motörhead, con mucho brutalidad.

But unless Electric Frankenstein has completely run out of cash and ideas -- something this release positively reeks of -- it's the diehards, boils and ghouls, the goth historians who'll likely buy it, if only for the cool comic-book art on the cover. That the Crash St. stoners actually went behind the back of Atlantic Records to "retrieve" their own tapes when a prospective deal went south and released the songs via an online "chopping mall" is worth noting. Otherwise, it's just another can of Veg-All disguised as something exotic.

Somewhere, Edgar Winter must be rolling his pink eyes.


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